„Your game is shipping in 3 days. What has to be added to make it work?“
Although this is not the actual situation for us, the statement (or question for that matter) helped us quite a bit in this week.
So there is this opportunity to show the game to somebody in the industry, who possibly will be able to propel it much further. That‘ s pretty awesome, but at this point the game is not ready for shipping. We are working on a vertical slice and are not even halfway through this vertical slice. So the project is not in a perfect state for deployment to an external reviewer, to be honest.
Thus we had a meeting in which we discussed, what the most important things to include in the version to ship would be. A bunch of things were mentioned, to get the game „feel“ right. The game should work and feel at least close to that what we will be shipping in the end.
Maybe some hours on the weekends will be spent to further improve the build, but it seems like we will get it done tonight.
It’s interesting to see what kind of things pop up as soon as you actually have to send it. Usually you’re always part of the playtest. There is always the possibility for us to say „oh that’s not ready yet. We will be adding XYZ to improve.“ and so on. But now, with an upload and download, there is no one explaining the game and maybe helping someone who is stuck at some point. No chance. So what should we do?
So this may have been the main effort this week, but it also helped putting the focus on the game as a whole product, instead of all the small pieces of it that we’ve been working on recently. The details did not matter this week, more the general look and feel of Mercury Shift 3D. Maybe we should get such inquiries more often. It helps focusing and changing perspective, which can be hard during regular development.
The UI was one of the things we did not miss in our small playtesting and feedback groups, as we have only been interested in feedback concerning gameplay and graphics at that point. But then again, we were able to build the levels ourselves accordingly and use a low-end graphical user interface. With someone externally using the product, this changes a lot.
We sketched out what elements would be needed and started making them. The UI should emphasize the shifting mechanic, so we tried making it look a bit like the shift every time you select one of the elements. Hopefully it is not only a good-looking feedback, but also something to support the main mechanic.
Rika was involved in the progress of making the UI together with Robin, but she was also busy fixing some bugs and managing the big playtests on Wednesday.
Mic also fixed some bugs and worked on the netcode. Netcode develops further and some features have been added, but it is far from completion. To keep himself sane, he has collaborated with Simon on improving the coins, the special coins in particular. Making them easier to understand and give them a good visual reading.
Matt, Beff and Oli used Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the big playtests for the game design students at our alma mater, the Mediadesign Hochschule München. So on Wednesday we had almost 20 people over at the office playing the game. We did some A/B testing with different input schemes and the tutorials. In general, things worked out very good. Tutorials worked far better than imagined and even the singleplayer which we considered an unpleasant necessity to this point was obviously a lot of fun for people playing it.
After the playtests Matt and Oli gave a little presentation to the students about the game and the process it has made so far. As usual, we were quite surprised ourselves, how far things have developed and how the initial game differs from what we have at our hands now.
Now on to the visual stuff! Simon is the man of the week: So many shaders and effects were added. Although these effects are smoke and mirrors, they’re awesome.
In the first gif the shader is used in the so called „anti-grav“ field. Players can use its upward drag to climb a certain height difference.
The special coin features a similar shader, although its color is now different. Mic made it possible to generate a mesh betweent the coin and the players. As the coin can only be collected when the two player are close to each other, this feedback is quite important. The coin can now be understood quite easy. Before this feature it has been quite confusing for most of the players.
Instead of realtime shadows for the characters, which can be quite irritating when mixed with lightbaked shadows and other static solutions, we switched over to the oldschool „blip“ that indicates ones distance between the player and the ground. Performance is only marginally better, but for players it is now much easier to correctly guess the distances in the game.
Another thing that we felt was missing is the feedback for the „death“ of the characters. They don’t exactly die in the game, but they loose their form, splash a bit and remain in the level as a puddle, which can be revived by the other player.
The coins themselves got a makeover and are now transforming from a hardshaded sphere into a soft shaded one, just like the characters are soft shaded instead of hard shaded like the environment. You can see it in action on top of this post.
And with more coins on one screen it looks like this:
Also new game design objects have come to life. The deadly tesla-coils are doing their best in looking deadly.
For the tutorials, we needed some objects which look like players, but in a non-creepy way. Something like a doll. Nora created beach balls that resemble our players and so far they worked flawlessly.
The levels for training are also taking shape, as Niko keeps filling them with assets and keeps creating some new ones:
We are also seeing progress in some of the „old levels“ that have been added to our prototype as well. They had to be reviewed and fixed, as some of the mechanics and level design elements were simply not working anymore, as Mercury shift 3D progressed quite a but in the last weeks. So here is an updated screenshot from that progress:
Thanks to Elena, who has been struggling with the Beast lightmapping. It is a mighty tool, but the fine tuning is hard. Mostly because it takes a long time to find out, how wrong your bake settings were. But after some time, we found the best settings for every stage and things are finally progressing with that :)
This week we were visited by two future interns, who will stay for a few days and get the chance to design their own assets and make a level or two. hopefully, we will be able to put them in the game.
Well… hard work seems to be paying off :) Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for stopping by.